There’s nothing like the fragrance of an herb garden. Sweet lavender sways in the wind, letting its fragrance drift with the breeze. Thyme’s savory aroma releases with a simple touch, and rosemary’s heady scent just begs to be added to your next meal. But buying new herbs every year can add up. So consider starting new plants from your existing ones to overwinter indoors – or if you want to start an herb bed from scratch, find a kind friend or neighbor willing to share some of their plants. With a little know-how, you’ll be able to grow a whole new garden in no time at all!


Because we left this tarragon branch attached to the parent plant while rooting, it will remain strong while new roots form.

Photo Credit: Mary Moore


Many herbs root well from cuttings, including rosemary, lavender, thyme, mint and tarragon.

Photo Credit: Mary Moore

Overcrowded plants

These tightly bound roots can be divided into clumps and replanted.

Photo Credit: Mary Moore

Layering is one propagation method that encourages branches to grow roots while still attached to the main plant. A simple method of layering is to use a small clay pot with a drainage hole on the bottom and some potting soil to start the new plant in. Then pick a healthy branch with nice leaves. Remove any flowers from the stem. About 8 inches below the end of the branch, gently remove the bark or outer covering of the stem, and apply a root hormone to the exposed area. Gently push the branch up through the pot’s drainage hole so the exposed area is inside, and fill the container with potting soil. Water thoroughly. Check every month or so to see how the roots are growing. When you see a lot of roots in the soil, cut the branch from the parent plant below the pot and replant it in a larger planter. Be sure to keep it in shade for the first few days.

Some groundcover herbs like thyme are even easier to root: Just take several pieces of relatively new growth, cover part of the stem with dirt, and pat the soil firmly into place. Check again in a few months. When several of the stems have formed good roots, trim them from the parent plants and move them into a small pot. Keep the new plant in a shady spot until it becomes established.

Root cuttings are an easy and effective way to create new herbs. You’ll need a tray of small pots with a plastic cover, potting soil or potting medium, rooting hormone, pruning shears to cut the branches and a shaded area for your new cuttings.

Cut several pieces of soft, new growth about 4 inches long from your herb plant. Gently remove any leaves from the bottom half of the stem. Dip it in a rooting hormone, then gently place in a small planter with potting soil. Press the soil lightly to cover the bottom half of the stem, adding more potting soil if necessary. Water the cuttings, add the plastic cover, then move them to a shady place. Keep the plants watered but not soggy. When you start to see roots growing out of the bottom of the container, the cuttings are ready to be transplanted into larger planters. (This method works particularly well if you use a wicking mat under your potting tray to provide consistent, even moisture for your cuttings.)

Root divisions are another way to propagate some herbs. Plants in the mint family (Lamiaceae), which includes oregano, will eventually develop thick, matted roots that slow down leaf production. To divide the roots, remove the mint from the planter or dig the mint up from the soil and cut the root ball in half vertically. Start cutting from the top of the soil and slice down all the way to the bottom of the root ball. If the root ball is large enough, cut it into quarters and replant each into fresh soil.

Chives and many other alliums also create new plants at the root base. To divide chives, dig up your plant and brush away the excess dirt. Gently, but firmly, work the bulbs apart. You can either continue to work until you have separated all of the bulbs, or you can just divide them into clumps. Replant the chives at the same depth, taking care not to plant them any deeper than they grew naturally.

And that’s all there is to it. It’s fun and easy to experiment with all these methods of plant propagation. Before long, you’ll have plenty of herbs to share with friends or spread around your own garden year after year!